NFL Fantasy Football: What Players Should You Pass On?
There are a number of players that have injury or contract or “behavioral” issues that you shouldn’t waste a high pick on. Most of these are obvious, but if you look at the average draft position (ADP) of a number of these players there are obviously a lot of fantasy team owners who are a little out of touch with reality. Let’s take a look at some of the players that are being taken too high.
Maurice Jones-Drew (ESPN ADP 8.1; NFL.com ADP 11.32): OK, MJD hasn’t reported to training camp and the reports are that he’s not even talking to the Jags right now. So, why are so many owners in ESPN leagues still taking him in the first round (based on a 10 team league)? It’s not like the NFL.com owners are much smarter. At an ADP of 11.32, somebody must be taking him at the back end of the first round and a fair number at the top of the second. Have these people suffered a recto-cranial inversion and forgotten what a protracted contract holdout did to Chris Johnson last year? Like CJ2K last year, MJD has a new coaching staff and offense. He’s losing conditioning time, time learning the offense and the reps that will help him gel with a partially revamped offensive roster. Now, in the real business world of the NFL I can understand why MJD is doing what he’s doing. He has almost 1,500 rushing attempts in his career. Priest Holmes started physically falling apart around 1,400 attempts. The wheels started falling off Larry Johnson at around 1,200 carries. Granted, LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t start deteriorating until 2,600 carries, but he was a rare one. MJD is in a predicament with a young QB that is in no position to carry the team anytime soon, if ever. That means a continued diet of a ton of carries. He’s averaged over 300 per year the last three years and he had 343 last year and he might have even more this year if he plays a full season under his old contract. Yes, he has two years left on it and in a perfect world he should honor the contract. But it’s hard to blame a man for wanting to see some more guaranteed money upfront when he knows that he’s about to take a hellacious beating for the next few years and as soon he starts to slip (who knows, could even be the end of this season or the end of his contract next year) the business of the NFL will see him jettisoned like a soiled baby diaper, a washed up RB with a broken-down body. This is why I think he’ll holdout into the season if he feels like it. Even if he doesn’t get more money now and has to give up some regular season paychecks, he’ll be saving himself some vicious hits which increases the likelihood that he’ll be physically fit to perform at a high enough level to command some guaranteed money at the end of next year, whether it’s in Jacksonville or somewhere else. In the end, I think MJD just might miss some regular season games. Worst case scenario for this year, he doesn’t even make the top 20 fantasy scoring list at RB, forget overall. Best case, he misses the top 10 RB and makes the top 50 overall, which would qualify him as a RB2 at best and maybe better as a back-up just hitting his stride late in the season. Which means at best, I’d take him in the fourth round, not where he’s going now.
Adrian Peterson (ESPN ADP 22.6; NFL.com ADP 27.4): You might think that since Peterson just came off the PUP list and been cleared to practice that a third round grade isn’t a reach. But it is. It really, really is. In my opinion, for the good of the Vikings and for his own long-term health, he probably shouldn’t play at all this year. If he does, the earliest should be mid-season. One concern is that, guess what, Peterson also is at 1,400 carries. He’s taken a lot of hits, seen a fair bit of wear and tear for a 27 year old. But the bottom line is that, despite all the testimonials about his fantastic recuperative powers, he still had an ACL tear and damage to his MCL last Christmas. He had surgery New Year’s Eve. So, it’s been about 8 and 1/2 months since major reconstructive knee surgery. You want to know something about connective tissue like ligaments and tendons? They have a low metabolic rate and a very low blood flow. Their construction is pretty close to plastic. Which means no matter how tough you think you are, they heal really, really slow. Even if he feels good right now running and cutting on grass, it’s going to be a whole new world once he starts having 250 pound LBs and 300 pound DLs hitting him and hanging off him trying to drag him down. Best case scenario, he plays very little early in the season and when he does he’ll show reduced burst and mobility. It’ll hurt and he’ll favor the leg and the knee will swell frequently and need to be drained on a regular basis. He won’t be at anything resembling his old self until December. At best, he’ll put up numbers worthy of a RB2. Worst case, he tries to go full-bore in week one and re-injures the leg. Personally, I wouldn’t draft him at all.
Mike Wallace (ESPN ADP 27.4; NFL.com ADP 35.53): Another guy that hasn’t even reported to camp. Now, while I can understand MJD’s motives based on the beating he’s taken and will be taking, Wallace is another story. Wallace is just looking for a really big payday to validate himself one of the top stud WRs of his generation. Well, even if he shows up after the end of training camp and swears to be ready to go in week one, there’s no way. It’ll take him a few weeks to just know the new playbook that equally new Pittsburgh OC, Todd Haley, has installed. Then, there may be some conditioning problems for the first month. Even then, expect a number of mental mistakes until mid-season. What does that leave you? Fantasy scoring production worthy of a WR2. That should translate to really a fourth round pick at the earliest, and more sensibly a fifth or later. So, the owners at ESPN are drafting him too early and the owners at NFL.com are at best, a little too optimistic but not completely out of their minds. However, everybody should keep in mind that the reason the Steelers haven’t been falling all over themselves to sign him to a big money deal is that he slowed down over the second half of the season. Did he slow down because he started to slack off? Or because defenses finally figured out how to neutralize him on some plays? And in either case, will he work hard enough to do whatever it takes to become dangerous again once he cashes the big check?
Marshawn Lynch (ESPN ADP 19.5; NFL.com ADP 30.45): This is a gut feeling. A very strong gut feeling. I’m sorry. I just don’t trust the guy. The way he turned it on big time in a contract year after, literally, years and years of underachieving and sucking the 7-11 Oscar Mayer Big Bite® proves to me that now since he got the big money he is going to go right back to underachieving and sucking the old Big Bite®. Second round? Third round? To me, based on his past inconsistency, Lynch is a back-up RB, a sixth rounder at the very, very best and more reasonably round eight or lower. But that’s an emotional decision based on my expectation of him regressing to his prior level of sloth and sloppiness now that he cashed the big bonus check. When you add in his DUI arrest a month ago, the possibility of a one or two game suspension makes him even less attractive. It just highlights that this guy could make another mistake that’ll cost him playing time if he pisses off either the Seahawks organization or Goodell. I mean, he makes bad decisions. He could have called a cab or hired a driver. He got the big money deal. It’s not like he couldn’t afford it. But what do you expect from a guy that already has a hit and run in his past along with an arrest for marijuana and a loaded gun in his car?
Fred Jackson (ESPN ADP 35.1; NFL.com ADP 42.75): A fourth to early fifth round pick may be a couple of rounds too early for Fred. Granted the word in camp is that he looks good and he only has 800+ career carries so he hasn’t taken a lot punishment. But the doubts come because he’s still 31 and his ACL tear was just about a month before Adrian Peterson’s. I think that’ll take some of his burst until the last month of the season. Early on, he’ll probably have the swelling and pain issues that Peterson would have. And C.J. Spiller is right there ready to poach carries. I think the combination of the injury, his age and a former high draft pick right there ready to steal some of his thunder drops his production this year, down to a back-up running back level, maybe a FLEX or a RB2 at the very best. I hope I’m wrong. But the combination of his age, the injury, and the organizational pressure to see what a high draft pick can do before they decided to fish or cut bait with him all point to a step back from last year’s production.
Jamaal Charles (ESPN ADP 24.9; NFL.com ADP 31.58): This one hurts me to say. I know Jamaal, he’s a former student and a fine young man and human being. But I think he’s also being taken a little too high. Basically, with a third round pick on average which is still within RB1 range and I’m reluctant to grade him that high if I am being objective. Granted he’s young, no other major injuries and he seems to be doing very well in practice, did well in his first preseason game and his ACL injury was so early that he’ll be nearly at the one-year point in his recovery when the season starts. But here’s what he’s going to have to deal with in addition to injury rehab: a new offensive coordinator and the acquisition of Peyton Hillis. That sounds a little like “running back by committee” coming to roost. But I’m confident, long-term, this season about Charles. I think he starts a little slow due to the time sharing at RB, but Hillis hasn’t shown a lot of durability in his NFL career. My rather ample gut tell me that Charles fantasy points will lag behind expectations at the beginning of the season and then by midseason Hillis will start missing time with the usual dings and that’s Charles’ cue to carry the whole load. But the Hillis-centric drain on Jamaal’s fantasy production early in the season will probably cut enough into his fantasy production to that of a RB2. And the third round is kind a steep price to pay for that. However, I do dream of making a trade for him in October and watching his late season scoring carry me to a championship.
Dwayne Bowe (ESPN ADP 58.6; NFL.com ADP 53.9): Well, Jamaal’s teammate is holding out like Mike Wallace. Reports that he signed his franchise tender earlier last week turned out to be false. Bowe is averaging an early to late sixth round pick. May seem reasonable to most, but his TD production dropped off last year, he’s holding out, not getting into football condition and has a new offense to learn. To me, his decision to hold out until the start of the season bodes ill for his production. He’s going to be well behind everybody else on the team. That may take him down to WR2 levels and if so, a sixth round pick may be fine. But the longer his holdout goes, the further behind he gets. If he decides to miss some regular season games even a sixth round pick seems a little risky.
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